Wine Drinking in Texas…
If you drive on Route 12 north of the city of Sonoma, California, look to the east and you’ll see Hamel Family Wines estate and vineyards against the backdrop of the west-facing slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains; the twisty, switchback-laden boundary between Sonoma and Napa Valleys. This location is known for its intensity of afternoon sunshine, periodically interrupted with fog brought by Ocean breezes, which gives the Hamel family their ability to make dark, fruit-laden Cabernet-based wines.
As its name implies, Hamel Family Wines is a family-owned and operated winery that expresses a quest for high-quality, terroir-driven wines made from grapes grown on their Sonoma Valley and Moon Mountain District estate vineyards. The good news today in Texas is… Hamel Family Wines will be more readily available to Texans through soon-coming distribution by Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC).
John Hamel, winery managing director for wine growing, described his family’s wines, saying “Our wines are made from grapes that come from four vineyards with a total of about 96 acres. They range from those high in the Mayacamas mountain district to those on the Sonoma Valley floor. The combination of this elevation difference, varying stony and clayey volcanic soils, and being only about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean gives our vineyards wide-ranging terroirs that we can explore and showcase in our wines.”
Their recent focus has been to grow organically and biodynamically and now they are transitioning to dry farming, lessening the need for precious irrigation water. Dry farming is not easy, and some might consider it crazy and/or necessary in light of California’s current drought conditions. But, over recent years and into the future, John indicated that Hamel Wines is committed to reduce water usage where possible and balance crop loads to produce still further improvements to their serious, terroir-driven wines.
Hamel Family Wines, 2017 Isthmus, Sonoma Valley
It’s a ruby-colored red wine blend (71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot) composed from grapes grown on both Hamel Family Ranch and Nuns Canyon Vineyards. It was fermented in a combination of stainless, French oak, and concrete tanks followed by aging in new and neutral French oak barrels and concrete tanks. As the name Isthmus implies, this wine adjoins mountain and valley floor terroir to produce ripe, round notes of red and black fruits, augmented by lively mint and cedar notes and spice.
Hamel Family Wines, 2016 Hamel Family Ranch Red Wine, Sonoma Valley
This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon yet labeled as red wine to offer the winemaker year-to-year flexibility to vary the grape mix even if varying to less than the 75% required to be label designed Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was fermented in concrete tanks and new French oak barrels, then aged in 100% new French oak barrels. It is the most immediately inviting (and fruitfully powerful) wine of the trio, with ripe black cherry characteristics that come with an easy attack, all-enveloping round and voluptuous mouthfeel, inherent fruit juiciness, and supple yet chewy tannins done in complete balance with the fruit. There’s lots of fruit, tannin, and alcohol in this big boy, yet somehow everything is in balance.
Hamel Family Wines, 2016 Nuns Canyon Vineyard, Sonoma Country, Moon Mountain District
Again, this wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – fermented in concrete and stainless-steel tanks, aged in new French oak barrels. If “powerful” is the one-word description for the previous wine, this wine can best be described by the word “structure. It focuses on intense blackberry fruit along with minerally and herbal notes gained from its stony mountain heritage. This wine begs marbled red meat now but will likely bottle age to where it will be a nuanced “in front of the fireplace” red sipper perhaps in a decade, or so.
John’s brother George, the managing director for sales and operations, spoke of the family’s winery that up to now has grown “organically”. I assume that he meant this in a business sense but, with a double meaning, this could equally refer to their organically grown grapes. George said, “What we are doing now is kicking off our wholesale business in states where we do the most direct-to-consumer business.” Of those states represented in this Zoom tasting were Florida, Texas, and California.
These powerful and well-structured Hamel Family wines will add something special and will be well applied to Texans’ penchant for meat, especially beef, lamb, and our even present game meats. These wines are full-bodied yet supple and rich with vertical or horizontal expanse, whichever you prefer. I’m looking forward to welcoming Hamel Family Wines into the Texas marketplace. Stay tuned for more on this subject as we expect these wines to arrive later this year.